Art By The Water

Our View: A New Inner Harbor Festival Will Add Cachet To Baltimore's Lively Art Scene

August 12, 2009

It's a safe bet that Artscape, Baltimore's annual outdoor festival of the arts, is one of the best things that ever happened to this city. This year the three-day event in July attracted more than 300,000 visitors for a dazzling weekend of art exhibitions, musical performances and tasty food along the Mount Royal Avenue corridor, and it seems to get better every year. It's also one of the most inclusive occasions in the city's civic life: Everybody's invited, and everybody shows up, ready to enjoy themselves and revel in the rich cultural life of this community.

So news this week that Baltimore will host a second outdoor arts festival later this month at the Inner Harbor can only burnish the city's image as a cultural destination. The new Inner Harbor Art Festival, scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 22 near the Power Plant and Power Plant Live entertainment centers, was put together by local developer The Cordish Cos. and a Florida-based events organizer with a national track record for producing juried art and craft shows, and it's expected to draw 50,000 visitors to see works by 150 artists.

That's sure to give a much-needed boost to local museums and art galleries, who'll benefit from another influx of visitors primed to take in as much of the city's visual arts scene as possible during their stay. And it's great news for the city's artists, who will now have another well-attended venue at which to display and sell their creations. Unlike Artscape, the Inner Harbor Festival will focus exclusively on the visual and decorative arts - paintings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, jewelry and the like. Our artists excel in all these fields, and they deserve to have their skill and talent celebrated more than just once a year.

A second major arts festival is also good for the city as a whole, and not just in terms of the increased patronage of downtown businesses and hotels. A lively arts scene is one of the delights of urban living we should show off on every possible occasion. The arts bring people together, and in doing so they bind the ties of community that link us in a common purpose and shared enterprise. They allow us to experience wonder and surprise, inspiration and awe, the joy of discovery and the contemplation of beauty. How can any city ever have too much of those?

It's not clear whether the new Inner Harbor Arts Festival will evolve into an annual event like Artscape, but we certainly hope this one won't be the last. It's a great opportunity for art-lovers of all stripes to get to know Baltimore better, and the spill-over effect on the city's terrific musical and theatrical communities could provide a big boost for them too if they can figure out ways to piggyback on the considerable buzz created by the new festival's marketing campaign.

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